France take a controversial win to lift the Nations League trophy


Photo via Franck Fife/AFP

Arik Weizman, Staff Writer

The French National Team took a controversial 2-1 win against the Spanish National Team on October 10th to lift the 2nd ever Nations League trophy, with goals by Kylian Mbappe and Karim Benzema leading the way. 

Spain took a second half lead in the 64th minute with a breakaway goal by Mikel Oyarzabal, but it was retaliated two minutes later with a brilliant curling goal by Karim Benzema. The controversy came in the 80th minute when Theo Hernandez slid a ball that was tipped by the Spanish defender, Eric Garcia, making the intended target Mbappe onside. Kylian Mbappe then slid the ball past Unai Simon, Spain’s goalie, scoring. Consequently, the Spanish protested the call to the referees. The decision was a goal,  and Spain were unable to respond with a goal leading to France lifting the Nations League trophy.

The Nations League is fairly new, making its debut in 2018 with Cristiano Ronaldo leading Portugal to glory. Although the tournament is not on the level of the Euro’s or the World Cup, most teams participating put their best squads with some variations to get young players to prove themselves. Arsene Wenger, former Arsenal manager and current Chief of Global Development for FIFA, when asked about the Nations League significance and if it should stay said We need to get rid of the Nations League and find clearer events that everyone understands.”

Eric Garcia’s teammate, Sergio Busquets, stated his frustrations with the call after the game, “The referee told us that (Eric) Garcia wanted to play the ball and that kills the offside… But he wanted to play the ball because the ball would have reached Mbappe who was offside! It doesn’t make sense!” Many fans and players have called to change the offside rule making it so if the ball is played to a player in an offside position, and the defender makes a play on the ball, but the player in an offside position still gets the ball he would be offside.  

Nevertheless the Spaniards also have to take blame for their loss, because despite taking up 64% of the possession, they were unable to create any real chances. This is not a new problem for them. Last June during the European Championship, they shared the match points with Sweden in a 0-0 draw while having 86% possession of the ball. And the worst part for the Spaniards is that Sweden had the majority of the chances. Although it has always been a part of Spain’s football identity to contain the ball, they have always had the playmakers that would turn all that possession into scoring chances. Players like Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez, and Cesc Fabregas are all capable of this ability. Now the only player that is close to a playmaking style of play is Pedri Lopez, the La Masia academy graduate, but he does not make those risky passes that could lead to a goal.

France winning the Nations League will have most likely given them a confidence boost after crashing out of the Euros last summer against Switzerland in the Round of 16, and they will be hoping to keep this momentum for the World Cup next year in Qatar.